BERLIN (JTA) — Israel is pressuring Germany to end funding for dozens of political, cultural and religious organizations that it accuses of anti-Israel agitation both abroad and at home — including the Jewish Museum Berlin — according to an unofficial letter obtained by a German left-wing daily newspaper.
The Tageszeitung, or Taz, obtained a copy of the unsigned seven-page letter sent to the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel and to the Federal Development Ministry urging Germany to “review its funding guidelines.”
The letter’s origin is not named, but sources told the Taz that it bore the hallmarks of the Jerusalem-based watchdog group NGO Monitor, a nongovernmental organization. NGO Monitor in a statement denied writing the letter, noting that it makes all its research public through its website and does not send anonymous letters.
A German government spokesperson told the Taz that there is an ongoing conversation between the two countries about Germany’s support for NGOs and that the Israeli government has provided information as well. The spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny that the letter in question came from official Israeli contacts.
The letter reportedly accuses Germany of going out of its way to support groups that are engaged in anti-Israel activity and try to intervene in Israel’s internal affairs. As one of many examples, the letter names the +972 magazine, which has received funds from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a think tank associated with the Green Party, saying its authors “regularly accuse Israel of apartheid.”
+972 publishes hard-hitting critique of Israeli actions in the West Bank, its blockade of the Gaza Strip and its treatment of minorities, and also includes Palestinian perspectives. It does not self-define as “anti-Israel.”
It reportedly also accuses the Jewish Museum Berlin of stressing the Muslim-Palestinian view in a current exhibit about the city of Jerusalem, and comments on the museum’s “regularly occurring events and discussions with prominent supporters of the BDS [anti-Israel boycott] movement.” Germany’s international film festival, Berlinale, is confronted with the same charge.
The letter names foundations, church-based groups and partner organizations in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority as being involved in anti-Israel activities, and criticizes German funding for films by groups that support BDS.
It urges Germany to “tie its further financial support to the complete halt of such activities.”
A Boll Foundation spokesperson told the Taz that the group had seen an increase in pressure from Israel on NGOs — both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories — seen as critical of the government.
German federal funding is among the least transparent in Europe and we welcome calls for increased discussion on its engagement with the civil society in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Olda Deutsch of NGO Monitor’s Europe Desk, said in a statement.